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It's the Little Things That Make OITNB One of the Best Shows on TV

Features
by Sara Stewart
June 11, 2014 12:00 PM
1 Comment
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"Orange is the New Black"

Orange is the New Black is back, and its arrival seems to have elevated the term "binge-watching" to a new level. 

But when did binge-watching become de rigeur for showing appreciation for a quality show? Is it worth being able to tweet that you've finished the season before everyone else? And why, exactly, would you want a show that you love to be over as fast as possible, shoveled in like a wet frank at a hot dog-eating contest? (Besides which, it's actually getting name-checked in scientific studies about sleep deprivation. Jesus.)

OITNB, more than any other show I can think of, demands to be savored. Pored over. Can we make "slow-watching" a thing?

In that spirit, I've only seen the first three episodes of the show so far, and they've all made me feel so grateful for its existence -- and so relatedly underwhelmed by my immersion in Game of Thrones (that last Castle Black episode, what a snore! I would love to see Taystee and Poussey recap and shred it).

Because there are just so many details in OITNB that demand your attention, and your reflection. Comic ones, and wrenching ones, and subversive ones. To paraphrase Ferris Bueller, if you don't slow down, you could miss them. (Or be too tired/TV-glazed to remember them.)

Just a few shout outs, then, to the amazing little things about the Big House, from Episodes 1-3:

Firstly, don't fast forward through that amazing credit sequence; it's made up entirely of faces of real former inmates.

In Episode 1, "Thirsty Bird," the cigarette-running cockroaches: what I really need to know is the provenance of Fred Savage III. What happened to Fred Savages Senior and Junior?

Piper's bunkmate, Mazall, and her obsession with astrology. Sure, she also bit off her girlfriend's tongue and swallowed it in a fit of "manic rage," but haven't we all known someone who was obsessed with getting the EXACT TIME YOU WERE BORN so they can do your chart? That shit is not confined to prison.

In Episode 2, "Looks Blue, Tastes Red," Black Cindy delivers an epic and stealth rant about real-life corporate baddies during the Philip Morris faux job interview: "They ain't so bad," she says about the cigarette company. "People can decide for theyselves if they wanna smoke. The real evil are those companies killing us without consent. Monsanto. Rio Tinto. Big pharma. BP. Halliburton. I been reading some dark shit on that. Not that any of them motherfuckers ever gonna hire us. The real criminals? They don't bother with us small timers." Look out, Koch brothers. Black Cindy is coming for you next.

The job consultant's advice to Flaca about how to describe her previous employment, which really speaks to the genius of resume re-wording: "Instead of saying that you 'helped make sure that no one stole shit,' you could say that you monitored inventory and provided security."

Red being stalked by a posse of older prisoners while sitting alone in the cafeteria. She brushes them off, but they insist: "Already no one notices us. We're old. And invisible. So why not be old together?" says one. And the embarrassing thing is, she's right. I don't remember ever seeing them before -- were they there all along? Bonus points for the gray-haired joker at the end of the table, who pipes up, "I'm 23!" Feisty old ladies for the win!

The side plot about Daya being constipated for five days. I've seen at least one review referring to it as "not exactly compelling television," but I beg to differ. This is a subject that women (OK, my female friends, at least) love to discuss and come up with weird cures for, and I love that her mom and Gloria are fighting it out to see who can un-stop Daya first.

The scene in which Vee talks drug dealing with Taystee, then seamlessly segues into sitting down for a healthy dinner of homemade soup and whole-grain bread. The look on Taystee's face as Vee calls her to the table is maybe the most heart-wrenching of the season so far.

In Episode 3, "Hugs Can Be Deceiving," we see Nicky's keeping a journaled account of her sexual conquests at Litchfield. Her latest entry includes "came twice, slapped her ass. BORING." Very on-trend of her.

Nicky also delivers a perfect, all but to-the-camera take on weddings when Morello tells her that another woman has stolen her fiance and her wedding date. What kind of person would do that, she sobs? "Someone who doesn't get excited by the wedding industrial complex and society's bullshit need to infantilize grown women." Oh, Nicky. You complete me.

Gloria does not have any patience for the gluten-free craze. "Don't commit the crime if you can't fucking have flour."

Taystee and Poussey are so good at Celebrity! They may be jerks about it to Suzanne, who never gets to play, but let's give credit where it's due: this is an unstoppable famous person-guessing team. "Chick whose husband died real young," Poussey says. "The white Michelle Williams!" Taystee instantly guesses. Damn.

In that spirit, go forth and slow-watch! Report back on your own favorites, please.  

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1 Comment

  • Pat | June 24, 2014 11:43 AMReply

    Yes. Thank you. I slow-watched the first nine episodes. Then a friend put out a spoiler! Damn! Anyhow, yes, savor the flavor. What I love about this season is that, more than last season, everybody gets to be human, and complicated. We are all good and bad, we are all motivated by the wrong things sometimes, we all step up to the plate sometimes. You're sitting there not believing that this character you love is capable of doing the nasty things you are watching. Or just when you're ready to continue hating one of the characters, the writers make your heart break for them. I love that! Such great writing.

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